The lazy days of summertime always conjure a malaise in my bones when it comes to cooking. No one wants to labor over a hot stove in one hundred degree West Coast weather when there is wine to drink and good friends to laugh with at the table. That coupled with an economy towards time that one acquires as one grows older, not wanting to waste convoluted hours in the kitchen when there are blue skies and breezes to enjoy to the fullest while we’re all still here, makes meals in the hot season beg for simplicity.
Two meals of late are examples of this season’s greatest fare inspired by favorite memories of mine from times gone past.
The fish taco has been a large part of my upbringing having been raised in Southern California where a large Hispanic population imported the cheap and easy dish into my cultural lexicon at a young age. I am not talking about the coated and fried versions served in stucco-laden restaurants with roaming mariachis but the kinds that come on tiny, plain corn tortillas heated slightly and topped with good grilled fish and not much else. These are the type I would buy for a buck a piece from a roadside cart on trips to La Bufadora to squirt with lime while sipping tequila overlooking an ocean at sunset. Or from the street vendor in San Felipe after dancing all night on the walk home to my hotel next to a bordello painted with butterflies. It’s one of those dishes that can be created in minutes from only four ingredients that leave you feeling light and sated rather than leaden and puffy on a warm and balmy night. Last weekend, while overlooking the gorgeous sea from a cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes, the Cute Gardener and I were treated to a perfect version made from pan sautéed tilapia chunks laid atop small corn tortillas smeared with a dollop of guacamole, a splash of hot salsa and some freshly chopped cabbage. It was a recipe that I will definitely repeat. Our only accompaniment was tomatoes Provencal, which we had coincidentally cooked ourselves not too long ago.
Another gem of the season is the stone fruit and there can never be enough praise for the delight of plucking a peach straight from a tree and rending its perfectly ripe flesh with your bare teeth, juice running over your lips in a sticky stream. But for those of us who rely on the store bought bounty in bulk, I always enjoy experimenting with light desserts to extend the fruit eating into the nighttime. Recently, I tried a recipe I had found on Foodie Underground only I exchanged the apricots called for into peaches. I also tweaked the cooking times and realized that for me less is more when it comes to cooking fruit. Just like my pasta, I prefer my pommes al dente. The basic recipe (with adjustments added by the CG) is as follows:
Herbal Goat Cheese Peaches
Cut 3 ripe peaches in half and discard pits. Put into a greased pan. Place a tablespoon of goat cheese into each peach center. Sprinkle chopped, fresh lavender and rosemary over the peaches. Drizzle honey over the tops of the peaches in a thin stream. Roast in a 350-degree oven for 10-20 minutes depending on your preference for firmness. Remove, let cool a bit, and then serve with a splash of balsamic vinegar.